Taxi travel

Hey folk:

Hopefully this out to be a short blog…

I want to educate you about common things that can be frustrating for people who are Deaf-Blind.

I’ve read an article by a Deaf-Blind person who lives in Washington DC. The article piqued my interest because of the person’s discussion of using a taxi to get to a store.

The person in question is nearly fully blind, and profoundly deaf. She communicates via tactile ASL, and has a guide dog.

I’m impressed that this person was able to confidently book, get into, ride to, and pay the fare; in short, this person who has limited vision and no hearing was able to use a taxi to go from A to B! Bravo!

Now, I bet you are thinking Bravo as well! There is a certain Wow Factor here, yet, I am also that you are thinking “Why is taking a taxi such an issue? I can take a cab with ease.” Yeah, you can…

As I mentioned, I’m here to educate you… For the Deaf-Blind taxi-user there are many little things that can muck up the taxi experience that non Deaf-Blind persons might not consider…

The best way to explain the various points is by using a series of examples. And the star is Eggcup: who is non-verbal, profoundly deaf with low vision; everything is blurry at a distance. Eggcup uses a white cane to navigate.

Ordering a cab:

So, Eggcup needs to go from 12th and Victoria, Home, to Lougheed Mall. Yes, I am in Vancouver, BC, and yes, you might want to use a map!

Eggcup uses Relay to make the call, which usually is quite quick, other times slower. After relaying Home address and pick up time; 20 minutes, Eggcup indicates “Walmart at Lougheed Mall.” Dispatch says “Thank you. Cab will be there in 20 minutes.”

Now, a word, anyone who calls for a cab does not need to inform the dispatch where you are going. Usually Eggcup does not answer that question, but trip concedes to tell the dispatch.

Eggcup is ready, outside, waiting for the cab. Soon, a white vehicle slowly approaches Eggcup’s home, who instantly recognizes the car as a cab, and proceeds to get inside.

The driver did not get out of the car, instead turns around and asks: “Where to?” He might repeat the question, obviously, maybe louder, when our hero fails to reply. Realizing the cab is not moving, Eggcup look at the driver, sort of egging him on… “What?” is gestured, followed by “I’m Deaf.” It is now that Eggcup gets annoyed, starts rummaging for a pen & paper; fuming “I told the damn dispatch… why did I bother!… grrr!” After scrawling on paper: Walmart Lougheed Mall!, and thrusting it rather brutishly to the driver, then Eggcup continues to fume, finally relaxes.

There is the first bit of frustration: Communicating with the driver. If Eggcup had not given Dispatch the destination, they would have written instructions ready, as I always do. Because it is best to be clear the first time, writing it down is better than trying to voice where to go. Sometimes focalization can be slurred, “Lougheed” could easily become “Low Heed” or something like that.

If Eggcup was more blind, unable to see shapes or objects from far away, the cab would not be as obvious from a distance.

When the cab arrives and sees Eggcup standing there, with a White Cane, the cabbie would assume a Blind Person and, naturally, would call out, “Hello? I am from Bel-Ney Taxi, you called a cab.” Eggcup would just stand there, being Deaf right! If the cabbie has been trained right, he would probably call out again, then approach our hero, arm-offering, to show the way to the car, probably opening the door. Perhaps the cabbie would realize our hero is Deaf-Blind, maybe.

That is relatively easy right? From home to anywhere, the Deaf-Blind person just needs to wait outside.

Now flip side of the trip; Eggcup is done Christmas shopping and needs to return home with 7 gift cards and other stuff. The cab is called again, using iPhone TTY technology.

Here is where some issues arise: Eggcup says to pick up by Walmart; and there are 3 cabs outside the entrance. Which is the right cab? Most of you would probably verbally ask driver “Who’s the cab for?”, but Eggcup, being Deaf, would write “E-g-g-c-u-p” and show each cab, if Eggcup can eye the driver’s reaction, either negative or positive, then would act accordingly. If all three shake head, then Eggcup stands to wait, until a cab drives up and again shows the paper, gets an affirmative headshake, and gets in the car. Eggcup would have home address ready to show.

Maybe Eggcup is running late for a meeting, and must get a taxi from a line of taxis. If it is an actual line of cabs, Eggcup should know to go to the first cab… But how would Eggcup know that is a line of cabs? If limited vision, maybe Eggcup would misread the line of white cars and yank open a door of a Ford Econoline van full of nuns?! Oh its happened!

If hailing a cab from the corner of a busy street, with some vision or none, is an impossible task: Our hero is frantically waving to all passing cars, hoping a cab would stop. I am pretty sure Eggcup, or nearly every Deaf-Blind person for that matter, would not do this. It attracts unwanted attention, from bystanders and birds alike!

Travelling in Cab:

Alright, Eggcup is en route to Walmart, Eggcup is playing Candy Crush on their iPhone. To a casual reader, it would appear that Eggcup is totally engrossed on the game, but in truth, our hero is paying attention to the way the cab is travelling. Most Deaf-Blind persons have a mental image of the trip, and will know, almost immediately, if the cab turns a different way. Eggcup knows the route: the slow grade turn to the left followed by a sharp turn to the right, the smooth climb, then a really tight turn that requires holding on to something.

With that in mind, what happens if the driver takes a detour?

Usually, the driver would communicate with the customer by saying “Hey, there is an acccident at Hastings at Main, I need to go south to Pender, okay?” Usually this is not a question, but a statement. The hearing sighted person would say “Yes, I can see that there is a logjam. Alright.” Onwards!

Dealing with Deaf or Deaf-Blind riders, the driver would probably just turn left, avoiding the logjam, and not communicating at all. Simply because it is easier.

So, Eggcup is left without communication, again.

But, even our hero can put two and two together, eventually. Alternating the mental image, albeit later, if the driver takes the most obvious route!

Paying the fare:

The meter can be a challenge to see or find for anyone. Some cabbies put it low, others high, or behind a visor. Once Eggcup finds the meter, reading the actual fare readout can be challenging. Eggcup needs to be observant. Using Zoom app on iPhone to see the fare, this is super handy app! Once arriving at Lougheed Mall, Eggcup zooms in on the fare, sees it is $38.40, and pays $40. Perfectly!

Some Deaf-Blind people would either have driver write total on paper or on palm. There is a degree of trust here, as the cabbie would know the person can’t see the fare; there is a small chance the driver might inflate fare, we’ll see this happening shortly.

On a different, yet related topic; Eggcup is urgently needed at MacDonald & 4th to attend an urgent, emergency event of some kind. A cab is the quickest way to there.

Once arriving at the destination, and being an emergency, Eggcup pays the fare of $35 without a conscious thought. Only thinking of the dying friend…

Until, several hours later, a cab is called to take a grieving Eggcup home. This time, through teary and bereft, Eggcup is surprised to pay $20 for the return trip!

What? Why was there a $15 mark up? The trip was the same route, same time of day; midday, traffic was moderate both ways… Was the first cab being greedy, unscrupulous? Taking advantage of a distraught person who is also Deaf-Blind? Probably!

Maybe, at a later date, Eggcup would try to track down the driver, file a complaint, etc… maybe not…

In closing:

Taking a taxi is a great thing; it gets you right to the door of your home, your business, but for DeafBlind people, there is a lot of trust involved. Trust that the driver is taking advantage of lack of vision or hearing.

I am excited to hear about your travels on a taxi, do you have issues or suggestions?

Thank you!

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